Thursday, May 31, 2012

Challenge Day Eve

I'm so excited.  It's almost like Christmas Eve or the night before you go to Disneyland for the first time.

Okay, I guess I'm weird.

My thanks goes out to some of my worried friends who think I'm crazy and am going to starve.  They treated me to my last breakfast (thanks Susan!) and last lunch and dinner (thanks Lisa!).  I had a strawberry waffle with lots of whipped cream for breakfast and Fishbonz tacos for lunch and stretched it out into dinner.  Then I topped it off with chocolate peanut butter filled pretzels.  I am most definitely not hungry at the moment.

So now that I am a stuffed pig to the max, I thought it would be a good time to weigh myself and take some body measurements.  My weight is at XXX and my measurements are XX, XX, XX.  Yeah, right.  I'm really going to post that here.  Well, maybe I will at the end of all this.  But for those who don't know me, I'm only 4' 11" and I weigh 24 pounds more than the day I got married.  I am now officially "chubby". 

Okay, so last night I put together a meal plan for the entire month and it tallies up the number of calories, protein and cost for each day. 

With the limited amount of ingredients, I came up with 10 meals, 3 for breakfast, 3 for lunch and 4 for dinner, but they are exchangable.  So if I feel like switching them around during the day or between days for that matter, it's okay.

I accounted for every egg, cup of rice and oz of chicken and calculated the cost down to 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.  This from a girl who doesn't even bother to balance her checking account.  So you see, I had a lot of fun last night doing this.

Breakfast Meals

1. Oatmeal w/soy milk and berries (strawberries or mulberries)
      (240 calories, 8 grams protein, 27 cents)

2. Milton's Squaw bread toast and 2 T peanut butter
     (290 calories, 13 grams protein, 30 cents)

3. Banana (1/2) with peanut butter
    (240 calories, 8 grams protein, 30 cents)

Lunch Meals

4.  Tuna Avocado Sandwich
     (208 calories, 9 grams protein, 28 cents)

5.  Bean Burrito with Avocado and veggies
    (305 calories, 12.5 grams protein, 20 cents)

6.  Brown Rice with Egg and Avocado
    (338 calories, 11 grams protein, 21 cents)

Dinner Meals

7.  Brown Rice, Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry
    (380 calories, 10 grams proteins, 41 cents)

8.  Chicken Red Bean Soup with Pasta
    (380 calories, 21 grams protein, 40 cents)

9.  Chicken Stir Fry with Pasta on Brown Rice
     (475 calories, 19 grams protein, 38 cents)

10. Red Beans and Rice with veggies
     (440 calories, 15 grams protein, 23 cents)

Super healthy right?  On top of these meals, I will have snacks that I will talk about in another post.  So do not worry, I will have enough calories for the day.

Tonight I cooked up a pot of red beans and will put half in the freezer.

Be back tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shopping Day

It was a pretty busy shopping day.  I hit some stores I wasn't expecting to shop at but they were on my route today. 

First stop was the Oroweat Outlet Store and I really scored there.  They were having a special where you buy their reusable shopping bag for 99 cents and you can buy up to 10 loaves of bread for $1.59 each.  That's a great deal because the retail is $4.69 to $4.99 per loaf.  You had to buy a minimum of 6 loaves however.  This is fine with me because bread freezes beautifully and anyway, I usually buy at least 3 loaves and put some in the freezer.

And, because I ended up spending just over $10 for the 6 loaves and the bag, I get 2 free items.  I picked the cinnamon rolls and the English muffins.  And on top of that, it was double stamp day, so my stamp card was filled and I can get another loaf of bread free.  I decided to save that for another day. 

I can only afford one loaf for my June challenge, so I chose the Milton's Squaw bread.  It has a lot of good stuff in it and a lot of protein too. 

Next, I headed to my brother's house to pick up the avocados and oranges.  But first, I drove by the 99 cent store just to see what they had there.  I picked up 30 corn tortillas for $1. 

My brother has some young apple trees and I noticed the birds were picking at some of the apples and some were on the ground, so I helped myself to a few.  Hope he doesn't mind. 

After that I decided to go to Trader Joes to shop for the bulk of my items.  Von's was on the way, so I stopped there and found 42 oz oatmeal for $2.50. 

At TJ's, I bought my fav peanut butter for $2.79, 2 dozen extra large eggs for $2.98, 64 oz vanilla soy milk for $2.99, 1 pound spaghetti for 99 cents and 2 of the largest bananas I could find for 19 cents each.

On the way home, I stopped by Smart and Final across the street and found a can of tuna for 73 cents, 1 pound of red beans for $1.09 and 1 pound of pinto beans for $1.24.

Last week at Fresh and Easy Market, I found a great buy on whole chicken at 79 cents a pound, so I got a 5 pound chicken for $4.01.  I put it in the freezer.  I also found a bag of chocolate peanut bars marked way down to $1.00.  I'm able to include that in my monthly budget. 

I'm allocating $1 to olive oil and $1 for seasonings (salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, mustard and a little mayo).

At Costco, I picked up brown rice in bulk (10 pounds for $4.99) so my brown rice cost is 4 cents a serving.

And lastly, at Marukai, I picked up an 18 oz tub of tofu for $1.29.

Okay, I know what you are thinking.  But, I agree, I had no intention of shopping in so many places.  But I have been looking for things to stock up on over the past few weeks and I happened to be running errands and was able to hit some extra stores.

Since I saved some money on a few items, I'm able to throw in some Vadalia onions for an extra 70 cents.   It brings my total up to $29.24.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekly Food Ads

It's Tuesday, and that's the day all the food ads from the local supermarkets come in the mail.  I used to check this carefully every week and use them with clipped manufacturer coupons to find the best deals.  Most manufacturer coupons are for items you don't really need though.  But sometimes, you can save a lot of money on things like household cleaners and paper products. 

For my challenge, manufacturer coupons are not going to be beneficial, however, I'm still looking for sales on staple items, like dairy, bread, peanut butter and chicken.  In fact, it is essential that I find some of the items on my shopping list on sale.  If they don't come on sale during this period, I will have to make some modifications to my shopping list.

Right now, I'm especially looking for peanut butter on sale.  I know that if I wait for the right time, I can find it for $2 for 16 oz, but in the past few weeks I haven't been able to find it.  Even at Costco and Smart and Final, peanut butter was more expensive than that.

I might have to get the Trader Joe's peanut butter at $2.79, but one of the benefits is that theirs does not have hydrogenated oils.  It's just peanuts and salt.

I'm looking over the ads of the markets close by :  Fresh and Easy, Ralph's, Von's, Sprouts and Smart and Final.  I'm only looking for things on my shopping list, especially chicken, peanut butter, eggs, beans, tuna and bread.

The only thing I see is Skippy peanut butter on sale for $2.49 and refried beans at .89 cents a can.  Also, they have a buy one get one free sale on tortillas. 

Now that I know what's on sale I can start purchasing items on my list.  Tomorrow I'm making a stop at Trader Joe's.

This afternoon, after harvesting from the garden, I decided to freeze some of the zucchini and broccoli.  The zucchini you just chop up and stick in freezer bags.  The broccoli needs to be blanched and quick cooled in ice water before freezing.  I should have enough fresh vegetables to eat during June, but just in case something happens to the garden, I'll have some veggies in the freezer to fall back on.

My mom called today to ask if I'm ready to pick up the oranges and avocados from her tree.  I'll pick those up tomorrow too...

Monday, May 28, 2012

What do you expect?

I think what my friends expect from this experiment is different from what I expect.

So I'll jot down my expectations and compare them to the end results.

Firstly, I don't expect to be that hungry.  Yes, maybe in the first few days I'm going to miss some of the junk food, but as long as I'm eating protein and drinking a lot of water, and getting fiber from the whole foods I'm eating,  I think it'll keep my blood sugar under control, so I don't expect to get really hungry.

I don't think I'll miss coffee and tea. 

I think my energy level is going to fall especially in the first week because I'm going to be eating a lot less carbs.  My body is probably going to do a detox in the first couple of weeks and I'll feel sluggish from the poisons releasing and exiting my body.  I'm hoping near the end of the month, my energy level will pick up after it adjusts to the new diet.

I expect I'll lose some weight.  If I lose 5 pounds I will be pretty happy.

I think I'm going to be more conscious of the food I eat.  Each bite is going to taste extra good and when meal time comes I'll actually be hungry.  Right now, I eat for entertainment and at mealtimes, I'll eat even if I'm not hungry.

My garden is obviously going to be well utilized.  Vegetables are not going to be wasted and I will have to be creative in how I prepare them.  I am going to feel so thankful for them.

I expect I'll be cooking some things in advance and keeping them in portions in the fridge.  It just makes sense to cook the rice for instance, a weeks worth at a time.  I expect that cooking is going to be at a minimum for myself.  I will still be preparing regular meals for my husband too.

I don't know how much I spend on food currently, but I'm thinking I'll save around $300 over the month simply because I won't be eating out or buying prepared food.

So that's about all I can think of at the moment.

The start date is now just a few days away...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Top 10 Miss List

Someone asked me what I'll miss while I'm on my challenge so let me think of the top 10 things I'll miss eating:

Burgers - I already mentioned my favorite is Carl's Jr.'s Steakhouse burger that they recently discontinued.  I also like Y-Not chili burgers, In and Out burgers and even McDonalds. 

French Fries - French fries are my #1 comfort food and I'm not picky about where they come from.  Y-Not has some chili cheese fries that are killer.

Chocolate -  See's is my favorite and it's always a bad idea to stick a box in front of me since they will stay by my side until the box is empty.  I recently discovered TJ's dark chocolate caramel sea salt bars.  I'm always looking for chocolate.

Coffee -  You'd think this would be at the top of the list, but since I gave up caffeine, I know I can get by with hot water.

Diet Soda - I crave having that bubbly stuff as a pick me up.

Greek Yogurt - I like having this as a snack with honey and walnuts.  Sometimes with berries and sometimes with jam.

Ice cream - Who wouldn't miss ice cream?

Cakes and Cookies - If they are in the vicinity, I eat them.

Potato Chips - To relieve salt cravings.

Chicken Maison - People who know me know that recently I've been a regular here and can't get enough of it.

So as you can see, most of it is stuff I shouldn't be eating anyway.  For some reason, I don't think I'm going to have a problem being without them for a month.

But we'll see..

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Waist not...Waste not

My eating binge continues as I count down to June 1st.  The result?  No more waist.  Really, I don't have a waist anymore.  You know, the part on your body that's supposed to be smaller in the middle?  Don't have it.

Do you know what happens when you don't have a waist?  Your pants won't stay up so you are constantly pulling them up.  This is a pain.  Take my word for it. 

Now I understand why fat guys wear suspenders.

I'm really, really, really looking forward to June.  Because in my mind, I will finally be motivated to eat right.  Meanwhile, I only have a few stretchy pants I can fit into.

I will take my measurements and weight on May 31 and keep track of it through the month. 

Speaking about waist...or waste, in June I don't think one bite of food will be wasted.  As opposed to today.  After working hard in the garden, I felt like having a burger so I went to Carl's Jr to get my favorite "Steakhouse Burger".  But alas, they discontinued it, so I got their newest burger, the "Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger".  OMG.  This thing is definitely heart attack food.  I didn't like it.  It was a burger smothered with gooey cheese and mayo on grilled buttered bread.  I mean it was oozing out all over.  I ate half and THREW THE OTHER HALF AWAY.  WASTE, WASTE, WASTE.  I know there are ancestors turning in their grave watching me throw food away, but that burger was a serious health hazard.

Besides that, I throw a lot of food away when I'm cleaning out the fridge.  Right now I buy a lot of take out for dinner so I don't have to cook, so there are Styrofoam containers of leftovers that get thrown out, vegetables from the garden that I didn't utilize, and fruit that didn't get eaten.  There are condiments and dairy products that are expiring and on and on and on. 

So much waste. 

But not in June.  I don't think one bite is going to be wasted.

And then by July...I'll have my waist back...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cheers for Volunteers!

The volunteers I am referring to are the ones growing in my garden.  That's right.  I didn't plant them, but they volunteered to grow.  They are usually seeds that got blown around from last years plants, or maybe a bird carried it over and dropped it in the garden.  However they got there, once they start growing, they end up growing healthier than if I planted them myself.  I wondered about that at first.  Why do weeds, for instance grow better than the plants I sowed?  Well, they're growing because they happen to be in the idea environment.  They were just sitting in a pinch of rich soil with the right amount of moisture and sunlight.  Out of a million seeds, maybe only a few take off because they happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

And these happy coincidences become garden "volunteers".  When I first heard that term from a fellow gardener, I understood it instantly.  Oh yes, I do have volunteers and I am happy when they show up. 

Actually, weeds are unwanted volunteers.  We don't plant them but they show up.  And to make things even more complicated, any plant that's not where you want it to be can be considered a "weed".  What's a weed to one person is a prized plant to another.

But I'm going on a tangent.

I wanted to talk about the volunteers that are growing in my garden that are going to feed me in June.  These are the plants that I welcome.

I found this runner bean growing on the side of my FIL's house (garden #2).  I'm surprised it's growing there because there's hardly any sun there this time of year.  But, look how healthy it is and it already has harvestable beans growing on it.  Runner beans can grow up to 15 inches long, so you don't need a lot of them to make a meal.  After I took this photo, I staked it up off the ground so it can start climbing.

This is Italian Dandelion, and to be honest, I've been trying to get rid of it, so theoretically, it's a weed.  I planted it a few years ago, but thought it was too bitter, so I pulled it out.  But no matter how I try, it keeps coming back.  Now that I have this challenge, I'm thankful to have it.  If may to too bitter to eat in a salad, but maybe it'll be okay stirfried.  I was hoping it would taste like arugula, but it's more bitter than that.  Speaking of dandelion, the common dandelion weed we all have with the yellow flower is also edible and actually delicious. 

This is my favorite pole bean, called the "Rattlesnake Bean".  I plant these every year, but this one is a volunteer plant.  It's growing next to a tomato plant and using the tomato plant to climb up on.  One of the reasons I like this bean is because of it's purple striping.  It's easy to see when you are picking them.  If you've ever harvested green beans you will know that it's really hard to find them when they are the same color as the plant. 

So cheers for the volunteers!  I am thankful to them.

P.S.  Hi Tammy!  I hope you will enjoy my blog.  If you want to start from the beginning and know my "challenge rules"  go here:  THE CHALLENGE

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Loquats and Lemons

I couldn't believe it when my friend Audrey told me she still had loquats in her tree and that I should come over and pick them.  The tree is in her backyard on a slippery slope so you have to watch your footing on the way down.  I happily climbed that tree last month picking the succulent little orange yellow fruit.  But there's always that chance that a branch could break or I could go off balance and fall pretty far down and roll all the way to the end of the hill.  But it's worth it and it's fun.

I never had a loquat until Audrey introduced me to them this year and I can eat handfuls a day.  They have 3 big seeds inside which take up about 30% of the fruit.  They are juicy, sweet and healthy too.  They are a good source of vitamin A and fiber.

I picked almost 10 pounds.  I put most of it away in the fridge to save until June.  The rest are going to disappear fast in the next couple of days.  They are refreshing and make a healthy snack or dessert.

She also gave me some lemons from her tree that was just dripping with fruit.

So why is it okay for me to glean so much food from my friends?  Because if it's not picked, it will just fall off and rot on the ground.  And if you tasted one of these juicy little fruits, you wouldn't want to waste them either...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bread Failure

Yesterday I decided to bake a loaf of bread from scratch as an experiment to compare it in cost and flavor to store bought bread. 

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I failed.  Okay, so I need more work in the bread baking area.  I wanted to make bread that would be easy and cost effective, so I choose french bread.  It only requires yeast, salt, flour and water.  I decided, however, that I wanted to make it healthier and substituted whole wheat flour instead of white flour.  I don't know what the difference is, but my loaf came out kind of flat and bad tasting.  It was really salty too.  I couldn't eat it and even if I was starving, I don't think I'd want to eat it. Yeah, it was that bad.

I estimate that a loaf of homemade bread with those ingredients would cost less than a dollar for sure if you were buying the yeast and flour in bulk.  And, I'm sure that even though it took hours to make, in reality if I knew what I was doing it would only take about 30 minutes of actual work. 

I will try again.

But not today. 

Probably not tomorrow either.

I need to get over the shock of my failure.

For now I plan on looking for a loaf of bread marked down at the discount bread store.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Visit to the Farmer's Market

The farmer's market is in a local park and only a 15 minute walk from my house but I don't go down as often as I could.  It's there twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays and is always busy.  Today I decided to go down and take a look at what's available. 

It's a pretty good sized market and there are a lot of produce and gourmet items to choose from.  But unfortunately, none of it is affordable for my dollar a day challenge.  Look at the beautiful berries!

I mentioned that in a pinch, I can come here and glean free samples of fruit but I didn't have that in mind today.  However, many vendors insisted I taste their gourmet food samples.  So, I had a delectable taste of smooth chocolate and some cactus tortillas and salsa.  Here's a kiosk of fruit samples with people buzzing around it.  I tried the peaches and a plum/apricot hybrid fruit.

The seedling guy was there today.  I usually grow my own seedlings, but since some of them got eaten and destroyed, I bought a few.  These won't be harvestable in the  month of June, so will not be part of my challenge.  I bought a Japanese eggplant, Japanese cucumber, Diva cucumber, and honeydew melon.  They were 4 for $5.  That's not a bad price and there were more than 1 seedling in each little pot. 

Tonight, I'm experimenting baking some bread, so I'll talk about that tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What's for breakfast?

I haven't told a lot of people about my experiment because some will be critical, think I'm just plain cheap or just stupid because I'm going to make myself sick. 

They're just haters.

The people I have told do think I'm crazy and/or stupid because I'll get sick, but at least they keep their criticism to themselves.  I really think if they were reading this blog they'd realize that, hey, maybe she knows what she's doing.

I'm telling you people, I'm just so perfect for this experiment.

I need to do this.  I need to eat less and I need to eat better and stop wasting so much money on fast and junk food.

I'm highly qualified because I can grow my own organic vegetables, live in sunny California where there is fruit dropping off trees and wasting away, know how to cook enough to make inexpensive meals out of what's on hand, and know how to buy food on a budget.  I'm also knowledgeable about dieting and nutrition.

And lastly, I actually really, really want to do this.

Okay, so what's for breakfast?  I have some ideas already.  How do these sound?

2 T Peanut butter on 1/2 sliced banana (250 cal, 9gm prot) 24 cents
Sauteed egg on brown rice, 1/2 t olive oil (263 cal, 10gm prot) 23 cents
Oatmeal with soy milk and strawberries (265 cal, 8gm prot) 38 cents
Egg and sauteed vegetables, 1/2 t olive oil (200 cal, 7gm prot) 18 cents
Egg and 1/2 avocado omelet, 1/2 t olive oil (208 cal, 8gm prot) 18 cents

I'll have some gleaned oranges, so I'll have some orange slices with them for extra calories and vitamin C.  Add an extra 60 calories to each meal if I have an orange.

I can't afford coffee, so I'll have plain hot water or lemon hot water.

It's pretty close to what I'm eating right now, except I usually have apples instead of bananas, white rice instead of brown, and Fiber One and Raisin Bran instead of oatmeal.  I also like to eat cheese toast but can't afford that.  Oh, and I will miss my greek yogurt.  So I'm substituting things with more nutritious, less processed foods.

Don't hate.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oil and Water

Or...fat and beverages.

Yes, our bodies need fat.  It provides essential nutrients and helps move vitamins through our bodies. There's good fat and bad fat however.  The good fat protects your heart and brain and fights off the effects of the bad fat.

Anyway, at this moment I have high cholesterol.  Most certainly this is due to the fast food and junk food I consume.  So this is yet another benefit of my $1 a day diet.

During my challenge, my fat sources are going to be few, but they include olive oil, avocados, peanut butter and chicken.

The olive oil and avocados are good fats and provide the all important omega 3 fatty acids.  The fat in the peanut butter and the chicken will boost my minimum calorie intake.  I need 1500 calories minimum a day and 1800 to maintain my ideal weight.

Olive oil isn't cheap though, so at 5 cents a teaspoon, I'm limiting myself to 10 teaspoons for the month.  I think that's enough because I mostly need it to coat some vegetables that I want to roast, use it to stirfry vegetables or saute an egg.  I'm really going to have to scrimp on it to get by.  I might need to save some chicken fat (yikes) to use for cooking.

I'm really lucky to have access to avocados.  They are a true superfood.  On a normal diet, I'd worry about the fat content, but I'm going to need those calories for this challenge.   The peanut butter has saturated fat, but it has so many other good health qualities about it and it tastes good too.

So let's talk about beverages.  I love coffee.  I drink it all day.  I also drink green tea every night.  Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to afford it on a buck a day.  So my beverage selections are down to hot water and cold water.  Not fancy water, but tap water filtered through the refrigerator.  I drink this everyday anyway.  Lately, I've been drinking a lot of diet soda.  So, I might miss that a lot.  I stopped drinking caffeine a few years ago so I won't have to worry about caffeine withdrawals.  I'm hoping I can glean a lemon from someone.  They seem to be plentiful around here.  Then I can have hot lemon water and cold lemon water.  Can't wait.  So basically, my budget for beverages is zero. 

They say you are supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day.  I don't think I do that now, but it looks like I might be doing it in June.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Carb Love

Yes, I love my carbohydrates.  Especially french fries.  They make me feel good.  Carbs give us energy.  Quick energy.  But then after a while, it all turns to sugar and makes us feel tired.  So then, we crave a pick me up of more carbs.  And so the cycle is continued and the excess calories builds up into fat.  And that's when the thighs start rubbing together.  Not a good image, I know.

I find that if you eat carbs by themselves, it makes your brain foggy.  And when your brain is foggy, you feel tired and crave more carbs.  That's why you should have protein with your carbs and stop eating so many carbs in the first place. 

So you see, I know the score, I'm just not following my own advice.  But that's all going to end on June 1, because I'm not going to be able to afford french fries, chocolate, donuts, maybe not even bread. 

What carbs will I have?  I will need carbs for energy and to meet my minimum calorie requirements.   Here's my list of things I can afford:

brown rice
dry beans
corn tortillas
bananas (maybe 1 a week)
potatoes (maybe only 1 for my chicken soup)

The rest of the carbs are going to come from my home grown vegetables and gleaned fruit.

Again, the vegetables I'm expecting to have available in June are broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, stir fry greens, daikon, zucchini, and tomatoes. 

The fruit I expect to have are oranges, avocados and strawberries.  I'm hoping I can find someone with a lemon and apple tree.  Also, peaches and plums should be around somewhere if I can find them. 

All of this is what I consider the "good" carbs.  Unprocessed carbs.  High fiber carbs. The ones I should be able to eat without restriction on a healthy diet.  The ones I should replace over the bad carbs I'm eating now.

Wouldn't it be nice if at the end of June, I only crave the good carbs and change my eating habits?  Hmmmm...

I am thinking about making some home made bread.  I'm not sure if it's actually cheaper to make bread or buy it from the discounted Oroweat store.  I might run a test just to see which is more cost effective.  Stay tuned...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Let's talk about protein

If you knew what my diet was like right now, you'd be appalled.  I like hamburgers and french fries, chocolate, diet soda, potato chips, cookies, cakes, and host of other bad food choices.  And, it seems like I'm trying to get into the most pitiful condition by June 1 so that I can see a lot of positive results from the challenge.  Maybe since I won't be able to eat this stuff in June, I'm shoveling it all in now. 

On the other hand, I want June 1 to roll around ASAP so I can get off this insane eating train.  My weight is at an all time high and my physical condition is at an all time low.

For now, let's talk about protein.  We need them to help build strong bodies and bones.  They help to curb hunger and keep your mind sharp.  It's good to eat some protein first thing in the morning to get your engine started. 

So what's the best protein money can buy?  And that's the problem.  Protein costs money.  It's hard to just find protein if you are foraging unless you come across a nut tree.  And how often does that happen?  We get the bulk of our protein by eating meat and fish.  What are you vegetarians doing?  I bet they have to subsidize their protein requirements with protein powder.

Since I can't grow my own protein in my garden (although veggies do have small amounts of protein), I'll have to buy it.  This has never been a problem until I am challenged to spend $1 a day.  True, dry beans do have protein, but they are not a complete protein.  Soybeans are a complete protein, but I'd have to have a lot more garden space to have a decent crop and they don't grow that well in this area anyway.

Now I read that someone my size needs about 45 grams of protein a day.  I have no idea if I get that much now, but based on the number of hamburgers I eat, I'm sure I don't have a deficiency. 

What has 45 grams of protein?

A chicken breast + thigh + 1/2 a drumstick
7 oz of fresh fish
A can of tuna + a little more
15 slices of bacon
7 1/2 eggs
6 cups of milk
6 oz cheese
1 1/2 cups tofu
3 cups cooked beans
12 tablespoons of peanut butter

So looking at this list, it is easy to see that it will be hard to buy 45 grams of protein a day.  That's 45 * 30 days = 1350 grams of protein for the month.  So, I will do my best and buy the most cost effective protein available while providing some variety and I have narrowed my list down to this:

1 whole chicken for the month, and it will take up a good chunk of my budget.  I want a whole chicken because I'm going to utilize the carcass and make chicken soup.  One whole chicken will provide approx 250 grams of protein. ($5)

2 pounds of dry beans.  Not sure how I am going to cook this yet, but expect I'll be eating this in a bean burrito.  192 grams protein ($2)

2 dozen eggs.  150 grams protein ($3, thank you TJ's)

16 oz Pnut Btr. 126 grams protein ($2)

8 cups uncooked brown rice, 170 grams ($1.16)

36 oz tofu, 84 grams protein ($2.58)

42 oz oatmeal,  80 grams protein ($3)

1/2 gallon soy milk, 48 grams protein ($3)

This is where the bulk of my protein costs are coming from.  And look how healthy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Where to buy food?

It's still a few weeks away to my challenge start date and I'm in the process of researching prices at food sources around me.

The price of gasoline is at an all time high where I live.  It's up to $4.35 a gallon and I'm not driving a hybrid.  Because of this, I think it's only fair to shop at places in the vicinity that I can walk or bike to.  Luckily, I have a lot of sources to choose from:

Torrance Farmer's Market - Within walking distance.  Open Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Prices are actually not that cheap, but worth checking out for a possible deal and snack on some samples while there.

Randy's Produce - Across the street.  A family owned produce store.  Good prices on vegetables.  Not organic though.  They have bags of marked down items too.

Marukai Market - About a mile away.  Easy bike ride.  My Asian food source. This is where I'll buy tofu and rice.

Target - About a mile away.  Target now has a full grocery section.  Good prices on cat food and gourmet coffee.

Ralph's - About a mile away.  I usually just buy junk food here...

Pacific Supermarket - About a mile away. This is a large Korean market.  I don't usually shop here, but they have great prices on produce.

Fresh and Easy Market - About 2 miles away.  This has become one of my favorite grocery markets.  Good selection of groceries to get a healthy dinner on the table fast.  They have a marked down section where you can get up to 50% off meat and produce with the current days pull date.  Worth checking out anytime I go there.  Also, they have a weekly coupon of $3 to $5 off your total purchase.  Their private label products are tasty and an excellent value.

Von's - about 2 miles away.  But like Ralph's, I usually just buy junk food here.

Oroweat Bread Store - About 3 miles away.  Good selection of bread at discount prices.  Sometimes they have overstock items marked down to $1. 

Trader Joe's - About 3 miles away.  Everyone loves TJ's!  Best prices on eggs and orange juice.  A gold mine for gourmet snack food.  Also, can grab a sample cup of joe and maybe a snack.

Whole Foods - About 3 miles away, but too expensive for this challenge.

Smart and Final - About 3 miles away.  Good place to buy in bulk and no membership fee.  I have to check out the prices there for my challenge.

Costco - About 3 miles away.  I don't have a membership there anymore.  I do have the option to have a family member with a membership pick something up for me though.

So as you can see, I have a lot of places to choose from.  Most of these places I drive by regularly when I'm coming home from other destinations.

For my challenge, I'm sure I'll only be shopping at Fresh and Easy, Trader Joe's, and Marukai.  Of course, I'll be looking at the weekly food ads for the best prices.  Although I can use coupons for this challenge, I doubt I will because coupons are usually for things that you don't need.

As an FYI, I used to work in a grocery store in my college days.  I used to be the person updating prices in the "new" scanning system and also made price changes of products on the shelf.  Back then, everything was hand marked with a price tag.  When I got married 30 years ago, I was a master coupon shopper.  The key is to use coupons on items already on sale and stock up on them.  I guess what I'm saying is, I'm a good food shopper.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Garden #2

This is the other garden I have growing in my FIL's backyard.  There's several varieties of tomatoes that I hope will be ready in June.  There's also some green beans and Anaheim peppers coming up. 

I've been growing flowers in this garden and especially love sweet peas.  They are in full bloom right now and fill the garden with fragrance.

It really doesn't take that much to grow vegetables.  Seriously.  You do need to have some ground space that gets a lot of sunlight.  The more the better but 6 hours of direct sunlight a day is the minimum requirement.  You can also grow in pots on your patio, but your yield won't be as good.

I've tried all kinds of ways to grow plants, from pots to poor clay soil so let me tell you the minimum you can do to grow vegetables with the least amount of investment.

  1. Find a sunny spot.
  2. Build a small raised bed (3 ft x 6 ft x 8 inches high) out of wood scraps.
  3. Fill it with soil and free mulch.
  4. Add a couple of bags of steer manure @ .99 a bag.
  5. If this is your first time gardening, go to your local Home Depot and buy some tomato plants and some cucumber and bean seeds.  They will have the varieties that grow well in your area.  You won't be able to grow a lot in this one box, but it'll be enough space for a couple of tomatoes, cukes and pole beans.  You can add more boxes as you go.
  6. For fertilizer, start collecting your kitchen scraps, especially coffee grounds and vegetable and fruit peels.  No meat products, just plant products.  Also, collect garden waste like leaves.  You can make a compost pile which is great stuff but takes some doing, so for this exercise, just start burying it in your soil around but away from your plants.  The worms will come and when you've got worms you've got good soil.
  7. If things start eating your seedlings, go out early in the morning and check the plants for small green caterpillars, snails or slugs and pull them off and dispose of them.

There you go.  You have an organic vegetable garden! 

So between the two gardens, I expect to have the following harvest able vegetables in June:  zucchini (the plant that can end world hunger), broccoli, cauliflower, daikon, stir fry greens (collard and kale), pole and bush beans, tomatoes and some strawberries.

It's just a fraction of what I used to grow, but the point is that I've done the minimum of garden work this year and will gain a lot of vegetables.  So get started.  Gardening is the most rewarding hobby on this planet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden #1

Checking in at the community garden:

For those of you still concerned about my health, check out my harvest today.

Some overgrown zucchini, a head of broccoli, strawberries and onions I bartered from my gardening friend.

And just so you know, I am not gardening much these days.  This has been a busy year and I haven't had the time to get out there much so I will have much less to harvest in June.  Still, I think it'll be enough.

In the community garden I have zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, daikon, stirfry greens and strawberries growing.  I lost the cucumber seedlings I planted to snails.  There are a lot of them out this year. 

I don't buy vegetable seedlings anymore. They are started at home from old seeds (some from 2008), or seeds that I have propagated from previous crops. Sometimes I'll get seeds from gardening friends at the community garden.   Seriously, I don't know why people buy seeds every year.  The strawberry plants are from 3 years ago and although they have been neglected, they still produce enough small berries for my cereal or yogurt.  My expenses this year in the garden have been $0.

I have another garden in my father-in-law's back yard.  Over there I've got tomatoes, green beans and peppers.  My cucumber and eggplant seedlings got eaten up there too.  It's been a bad year for me with my seedlings.     Nothing is ready to harvest yet, but I hope to have some tomatoes and beans in June.

It occurred to me as I was driving home with my harvest that if I eat and depend on all these vegetables instead of my usual junk food, my body is going to go through a detox.  And that is a good thing.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Why?  What?  WHY? 

Those are the words most spoken by people when I tell them about my dollar a day challenge.  They immediately think about going out and buying me some McD's Egg Mcmuffins.  They think I'm going to starve. 


I think I'm going to be eating healthier than ever.  I'm not 100% positive I can do this for a whole month.  After all, when I'm dieting I can't stop eating chocolate for more than a day.  However, that's why this is a challenge.  And believe it or not, I'm really looking forward to it.

So why am I doing this?  Well I guess I've always been interested in budgeting, but I've really gotten away from it these days.  I mean, going out to lunch, even fast food and bringing home take out dinners everyday is really expensive.  Duh.  Yes, it's a lot cheaper than eating out at restaurants, but it still is really expensive.

When I got married 30 years ago, we budgeted $50 a week to cover food, clothing, entertainment, household supplies, and even cat food.  And, there was money left over.  Okay, so I'm not going to that extreme ever again, but it was a necessity then and a challenge now.

And I guess I want to make a point...that you can eat healthy on a limited budget.  People in third world countries are doing it everyday.  Our country has so much waste so we have no excuse.  There is a lot of food getting wasted in the fields because they are not harvested because they are not "pretty" enough to sell commercially. 

I have a small vegetable garden.  It's almost self sustaining at this point.  What I mean is that I don't have to invest much money in it.  A lot of the seeds are ones that came from previous years.  The ground is being fertilized mostly by homemade compost, and the mulch is free from a nearby source.  Since I live in a condo and don't have a yard to grow in, I use a community garden plot that costs me $48 a year.  What a deal.  I'm not factoring the cost of the garden into my costs for this challenge.

Other things I'm not factoring into the cost is the cost of electricity or gas to prepare the food.  Or the cost of gasoline to go buy the food.   

So mostly, the money I spend will go to buy protein, and what I plan to buy is chicken, tofu, beans, eggs and peanut butter.  I need to get the best nutrition for the dollar and I am free to buy in bulk and use coupons to get the best price on items, just like I did 30 years ago.   Also, I'm free to glean food from friend's and family's fruit trees.  Luckily, my mom has avocados and oranges.  Score.  I can eat anything that is given away as a free sample.  Thank you TJ's for a sip of coffee and the local farmer's market for tidbits of fruit.  They will just be treats per say. 

I believe I will benefit several ways from this challenge:  First, I could use to lose some weight.  Second, I've been eating a lot of junk food lately so my diet will be much better.  And lastly, I'll be saving a lot of money on food.

I did all the math, and I know I need about 45 grams of protein a day and at least 1250 calories for my size.  Less than 900 and I'll go into starvation mode.  It's hard to get that many calories for $1, so that's why I need the garden veggies and gleaned fruits to boost up calories.

Okay, so here are MY rules.  Yes, these are the rules I've decided to use.  I know people are going to say I should be doing this or that, but listen people, this is my challenge so I get to make up the rules. Feel free to do your own challenge under your own rules.
  1. Cost of food for the month cannot exceed $30.  This means that I can eat $1.25 one day and 75 cents another day.
  2. I am free to eat anything I grow in my vegetable garden or glean from friends and family trees and gardens.
  3. I can buy in bulk and calculate the cost per serving.
  4. Can shop for weekly sales, mark downs and use coupons to get the best prices.
  5. Cost does not include cost of garden (about $4 a month), cost of electricity and gas for food preparation or transportation costs to buy food. 
  6. I cannot accept food from others that they purchased. 
  7. I am allowed to eat food that is given away as samples and is available to the public.
Will my husband be participating?  Absolutely not.  So yes, that means I will be preparing his meals separately. 

No, I will not accept free food from people unless it was grown by you.  Don't tempt me!

When does this challenge start?  June 1, 2012 and ends June 30, 2012. 

Any questions?  Ask away!